If the reason you hate your coworker is because one time he “accidentally” ate your peanut butter sandwich from the office refrigerator, we can’t really help you.
But if the reason you can’t stand your teammate is because she’s always brusque in meetings, whereas you’d rather take an extra few minutes to make sure you understand everything, we’ve got some potential solutions.
An article in The Harvard Business Review, by Suzanne M. Johnson Vickberg and Kim Christfort, highlights research from Deloitte, which found that there are four distinct personality types in the workplace — and everyone getting along depends partly on being able to understand the differences.
Here’s a description of each personality type, excerpted from HBR:
“Pioneers value possibilities, and they spark energy and imagination on their teams. They believe risks are worth taking and that it’s fine to go with your gut. Their focus is big-picture. They’re drawn to bold new ideas and creative approaches.”
The researchers found that Pioneers are energised by brainstorming, spontaneity, and enthusiasm. They are alienated by rules, the word “no,” and a focus on process.
“Guardians value stability, and they bring order and rigour. They’re pragmatic, and they hesitate to embrace risk. Data and facts are baseline requirements for them, and details matter. Guardians think it makes sense to learn from the past.”
The researchers found that Guardians are energised by organisation, predictability, and detailed plans. They are alienated by disorder, time pressure, and uncertainty.
“Drivers value challenge and generate momentum. Getting results and winning count most. Drivers tend to view issues as black-and-white and tackle problems head on, armed with logic and data.”
The researchers found that Drivers are energised by solving problems, directness, and winning. They are alienated by indecision, inefficiency, and lack of focus.
“Integrators value connection and draw teams together. Relationships and responsibility to the group are paramount. Integrators tend to believe that most things are relative. They’re diplomatic and focused on gaining consensus.””
The researchers found that Integrators are energised by collaboration, communication, and trust. They are alienated by politics, conflict, and inflexibility.
The authors say everyone is a mix of all four personalities — but most people align closely with one or two types.
For the research, Deloitte teamed up with biological anthropologist Helen Fisher, best known for her insights on romantic relationships, and molecular biologist Lee Silver. From there, they surveyed more than 190,000 people and worked with leaders and teams in thousands of interactive sessions. The result is a system called Business Chemistry.
Interestingly, a survey of about 660 C-suite executives found that most top leaders are Pioneers or Drivers. And Guardians and Integrators are more likely to report feeling stressed.
The four personalities outlined in the HBR article look somewhat similar to another set of personality types called DISC: Dominant, Influential, Steady, and Conscientious.
As business psychologist Tim Ursiny, founder of Advantage Coaching, previously told Business Insider, conflict tends to occur between opposite personality types — so it’s dominant versus steady, and conscientious versus influential.
Dominant and steady personalities often butt heads because dominant people tend to be overtly aggressive, while steady people are more passive-aggressive. And while dominant personalities may seem intimidating or impatient, steady personalities may seem indecisive and hesitant to enact change.
Conscientious and influential people are often at odds because conscientious types may be perceived as overly perfectionistic or concerned with the rules. On the other hand, influential people may seem like they aren’t attentive enough to details.
Whichever framework you prefer to use, the idea is that your coworker (probably) isn’t an idiot, or a bully — they just work differently than you do.
The HBR article focuses on the way leaders can encourage cooperation and productivity from their teams — but it’s just as important to understand your own proclivities and how other people might perceive them.
For example, the article encourages leaders to say something like, “Just playing Guardian here…” or “If I were to view this through the lens of a Driver…” (as opposed to, “Just playing devil’s advocate”). It might be easier and equally effective to ask yourself during a tense meeting to see an issue through another personality type’s perspective.
Eventually, you might get to the point where you can talk to your manager about your specific personality type (even if you don’t use DISC’s or Deloitte’s terminology) and how you work best.
If you are a team leader, it would be wise to get a sense of how each of your team members works best — whether that means asking them directly or observing carefully.
You’ll also want to make sure you aren’t staffing your executive team with people just like you — instead, it helps to have some diversity, like a system of personality checks and balances, to facilitate productivity.
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